Thursday, June 30, 2005

A note from vacation: an interesting thing happened over lunch today. After a round of intense questioning, one of my 4-year-old nieces discovered--seemingly for the first time--that the chicken she was eating was in fact formerly a live animal. Not what she expected to hear on asking "Mom, how do you make chicken?" She was a combination of confused and horrified ("I'm eating a bird?!? Why am I eating a bird?!").

I don't remember the first time I made the realization about my carnivorous ways. But it was interesting that in all of her disturbed questioning, she never once seemed like she might stop eating her lunch. It made me wonder: if we waited on eating meat until we were old enough to have some basic understanding of what it meant, would we today still do it? We don't (most of us) grow up around the killing of animals we consume, so it's not like that is a real part of our lives. Wouldn't more of us be vegetarians if only we didn't grow up oblivious to the fact that we were actually eating animals? And if so, isn't that disturbing?

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

More Cruise Control
Kevin Drum has a few questions about Tom Cruise and Scientology. It sounds even crazier than most other religions. I heard a recent review of his new War of the Worlds flick that noted it was almost impossible to watch him and not think of his recent outspoken, media hungry freakshows. If his self-loving shenanigans cost the movie at the box office, do you think Tom can be forced to give Spielberg some of his money back?
Dial-up woes
The dialup service I purchased here at the beach is slow as Christmas. So I'm not having much luck reading news. What am I missing? I did happen to catch Hardball at Two Rivers Baptist Church in Nashville last night and it was pretty disgusting. What else is out there?
Bush Speech
The transcript is here. But the shorter version is: "Heh heh heh. We gotta keep fighting in Iraq cause all those fellas from September 11 are over there. You remember how bad that was dontcha? Iraq War = September 11. (Somebody better clap if you don't wanna get fired). Good night."

I was surprised he did make a pitch for people to join the military. That must have hurt a little. I don't know if this clear act of desperation actually helped. Over the last month his job approval ratings have levelled out below 50% But if you want to know what your own state thinks, check out SurveyUSA's state-by-state numbers, via Kos. Tennessee finally has more disapproving than approving, 49-47. Only 17 states approve more than they disapprove.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

SCOTUS Conversation
Slate has an interesting conversation about yesterday's 3 big Supreme Court decisions , and is a good place to start if you (like me) haven't had the time this week to read much about them. Also, browse boing boing for some angry-sarcastic remarks about the anti-Grokster "thought crime" the Court just created at the behest of the entertainment community.

Monday, June 27, 2005

What have you been reading, watching, and listening to?

On vacation I'm trying to finish Lakoff's Moral Politics, which I started a long time ago. It's a bit tedious at this point, but trudging through. Then, I'm looking forward to "Norwegian Wood," a novel by Murakami. I've never read one of his before, but ran across his name in a previous media Monday. Also hoping to catch the new Batman this week.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Pre-Bono MTP Watch
Did I just hear Rumsfeld say that he "never estimated the cost of the war"? Surely that's not true--and someone out there can prove it.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Watch Meet the Press on Sunday
Because Bono will be on. If nothing else, it will be different from the usual Russert craptacular. And here's a nice BBC blog roundup (via of the Live 8 event and controversies. For more info, check out
Lots of polls have started to indicate that the American public is souring on the Iraq War. But, the question gets asked in funny ways; respondents are often given unsatisfying kinds of choices. I read this one the other day though, and it's just now sinking in: more Americans now hold George Bush responsible for the Iraq War than they do Saddam Hussein, 49-44. That's pretty cut and dry isn't it? And a direct repudiation of the idea that somehow Saddam's actions regarding UN sanctions, weapons, or support for terrorists was the impetus behind the War.

And shouldn't this development in public opinion be leading the news at least ahead of the Dick Durbin story? And given their previous rhetoric, shouldn't Republicans ask the American people to apologize for giving terrorists such a boost in morale?

Wolcott has much more and it's even better than usual.
On Vacation
Hooray for free wireless Internet at the Quality Inn! Woohoo!

Friday, June 24, 2005

The sound...
of 2 morons talking.
Supporting the Troops
Will voters ever really see with their eyes open?
The Bush administration, already accused by veterans groups of seeking inadequate funds for health care next year, acknowledged yesterday that it is short $1 billion for covering current needs at the Department of Veterans Affairs this year.

The disclosure of the shortfall angered Senate Republicans who have been voting down Democratic proposals to boost VA programs at significant political cost. Their votes have brought the wrath of the American Legion, the Paralyzed Veterans of America and other organizations down on the GOP.
The Pentagon knows it's not to ask for more troops; the VA knows it's not to ask for more money. It doesn't really matter what the actual needs are. Once they're off the field of battle, Bush and Rumsfeld just see budget numbers beaten down by a unaffordable tax cut, not the sacrifices of real Americans, mangled and traumatized by war.
A New, Filthy Low
Salon's Daou Report on the despicable Karl Rove.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Big Brother
The Defense Department began working yesterday with a private marketing firm to create a database of high school students ages 16 to 18 and all college students to help the military identify potential recruits in a time of dwindling enlistment in some branches. . . . . Some information on high school students already is given to military recruiters in a separate program under provisions of the 2002 No Child Left Behind Act. Recruiters have been using the information to contact students at home...
Why should they target children? Aren't the most logical targets Republicans that are already supporting the war? The General has plans: Operation Yellow Elephant. Col. Crooks and Liars made a valiant effort, but young Republicans are only interested in promoting a war that somebody else fights...
Last Throes
The top American commander in the Persian Gulf told Congress on Thursday that the Iraqi insurgency has not grown weaker over the past six months...
Bush on Social Security
President Bush on Thursday praised the fact Republicans had put forward proposals to restructure the U.S. retirement program and blamed Democrats for the troubles facing his Social Security plan.
"See, the American people expect those of us who come to Washington, D.C., to negotiate in good faith on behalf of the people. If there's a problem, people ought to say, 'here's what I'm for,' not what they're against."
(ed:all emphasis mine)
Ok, fine. Here's what we're for:
1. Balancing the budget so we don't have to keep raiding the trust fund to pay for giant tax cuts for those who need them the least.
2. Reaffirming the commitment that the Social Security Trust represents a good faith debt that the United States promises to pay in full, as required by the Constitution.
3. Minor adjustments to the present system to extend its solvency, including raising or eliminating the payroll tax cap.

In short, we're for fixing the system we have now (not scrapping it for a whole new system), and maintaining its central reason for being: as an insurance system for the retired, not a welfare system to nosedive middle-class retirees toward the poverty line.

Democrats have been saying what we're for. Why is it so hard to understand?

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Flag-burning amendment 2 votes from going to the states?
Constitutional amendments outlawing flag desecration have passed the House before with 2/3 majorities, but have always fallen short of the 67 needed in the Senate. But there's a new Senate in town, and if a pro-amendment watch group is to be believed, there are exactly 65 Yes votes in the Senate, only 2 short of what they need. Many of these Senators are on record from a previous vote in 2000, and many of the others have already signed on as co-sponsors. The rest have been projected based on campaign statements. Even if Obama votes no (they do not have him as yes or no), that leaves the no votes at a teetering 35. On top of that, freedom-lovers would still depend on a small group of usually wrong-headed Republicans like Mitch McConnell of KY, and a handful of red-state Democrats like Mark Pryor of Arkansas to maintain their No position. If 2 of them bolt, then it's on to the state legislatures...

This all matters because today, once again, the House voted yes on the Constitutional amendment.

Senators anticipated to vote no, according to Citizens Flag Alliance:
Pryor (AR), Boxer (CA), Dodd (CT), Lierberman (CT), Biden (DE), Carper (DE), Akaka (HI), Inouye (HI), Durbin (IL), Harkin (IA), McConnell (R-KY), Mikulski (MD), Sarbanes (MD), Kennedy (MA), Kerry (MA), Levin (MI), Corzine (NJ), Lautenburg (NJ), Bingaman (NM), Clinton (NY), Schumer (NY), Conrad (ND), Dorgan (ND), Wyden (OR), Chafee (R-RI), Reed (RI), Bennett (UT), Jeffords (I-VT), Leahy (VT), Cantwell (WA), Murray (WA), Byrd (WV), Feingold (WI), Kohl (WI).
Favorite Positions: Poll
Bill O'Reilly tells us more than we needed to know about his sleeping habits and comforts in defending treatment of prisoners in Cuba, many of whom have been chained in a fetal position. O'Lielly claims this body arrangement to be comfortable, and adds that "most of us sleep in a fetal position." So, the guards were just trying to make the prisoners feel comfortable and at home.

Apart from this being a ludicrous defense, he's wrong isn't he? Unless I'm the one sleeping weirdly, most of us do not in fact usually sleep in a fetal position. Do we? Sleep on my side, yes. Sleep on my side with my knees pulled up to my chest and my back hunched over? not so much. But maybe I'm out of touch. Raise your hand if you sleep in a fetal position.
Bush talks to Southern Baptists, accidentally slaps them in the face
Bush gave his traditional video speech to the Southern Baptist Convention yesterday (here in Nashville this week, hence the smell) and took the chance to praise a Baptist church for doing great things for the community with government funds.
I am proud that we have now opened billions of dollars in grant money to competition that includes our faith-based charities. For example, my administration awarded College Park Baptist Church in Orlando, Florida $5.8 million to build 68 homes for low-income seniors.
As Bob Allen noted, writing in, College Park is a CBF church, not a Southern Baptist Convention member. So, College Park is aligned with a group that found the Southern Baptists to be extreme fundamentalists, and left them.
The Atlanta-based CBF split from the SBC in 1991 over differences including biblical inerrancy and the ordination of women. The convention views the 1,800-church body as a competitor and refuses to accept money that churches channel through it.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Durbin has tearfully apologized. (If you don't know what for, read this.)

I could be wrong, but it feels like this will end the pressure for more inquiry into the camp, will certainly blunt the growing chorus of those who say we should think about closing it down, and empowers Republicans to further demonize anyone who raises serious questions about our use of torture as a tactic (or a sport). Plus, it felt like anti-torture forces were making headway using the crazy argument that what the Senator said is actually quite correct.

I don't quite get it. Maybe our Illinois friends can enlighten us. Here's the Star Tribune, and the Daily Howler (both via Atrios)
Surreal Times
A South Park episode a few years back revealed that planet Earth is just a reality show enjoyed by the rest of the universe. The boys saved the show from being cancelled (appealing to the head alien, a talking taco that poos ice cream, but I digress) and Earth was allowed to continue.

That crossed my mind last night when I heard a lengthy report on MSNBC about how much Saddam Hussein loves Doritos and can eat an entire family bag in one sitting. Maybe the Iraq War is just one big product placement opportunity in some intergalactic reality show. (Do you think other chip companies got to bid to be on Saddam Hussein's menu, under the all-publicity-is-good-publicity theory?) What if his newfound love of Doritos softens his anti-Western stance? Is anyone in the CIA working on slipping some oreos and coke to Osama?

2 conclusions: first, the whole world is going completely insane; second, when the news stations just don't have any news to report, they should be required to pause their broadcasting until they do. The evil tyrant of Iraq hates Fruit Loops and loves Raisin Bran. Someone kill me now.
Bernie Sanders
The Vermont congressman is guest-blogging this week at TPMCafe. Today he defines being a progressive:
What motivates me politically, and what being a progressive means to me is fighting for the economic well-being of middle and low income Americans -- those people whose needs are too often ignored by a Congress dominated by Big Money and a White House bent on further enriching the very wealthy at the expense of everyone else.

In Vermont, we have shown that when middle income and working people know you are on their side economically, they will support you even if they disagree with you on one or another social and cultural issue.
For all the post '04 haranguing about Democrats deciding what they stand for, he makes it sound pretty easy, doesn't he? And he's not even a Democrat. Now, if only that strategy of a constituency overlooking cultural disagreements worked south of, say, Pennsylvania, we'd have something.

Monday, June 20, 2005

What have you been reading, listening to, watching?

Sorry for the delay - An Internet outage has kept me offline all day--the horror!

Six Feet Under
The new season is a bit shaky (haven't seen tonight's new episode yet). Bringing a new female character to ruffle things seems gimmicky, and Clair's newfound (last season) selfish art-school brattiness is getting old, especially since it appears to have come at the expense of her soulful, curious, insightful-but-uncertain qualities that made her such a great character the first few years. Still, there is plenty to like, especially with my favorite character, Ruth, a grandmother who is newly remarried to a man whose mental illness now requires her care. Not what she had in mind.

Hopefully the more annoying story lines can come around.

Must have heard that it's Media Monday. He changes pace with a post about music. He's going through a bluegrass phase.

Who Cares?
Arts critics have it rough these days and aren't as beloved as they'd like, according to a meeting of the National Critics Conference. Also, now an art critic is expected to write something interesting to read, instead of just exuding authority that demands to be read all by itself.

Here's a hint: traditional arts venues (symphony halls, museums, theater halls), the kind that have the community clout (and free wine/cheese receptions) to demand the reviews of major media outlets, are not scheduling lively, relevant, challenging programs. How many more ways are there to review performances of Sibelius's Symphonies of slog, or Bruckner's borefests? When was the last time a performance of Beethoven's Violin Concerto bothered to distinguish itself enough to be worth writing about? These players came out of conservatory factories ready to play these pieces the way they are always played. So, first of all, critics would do themselves a favor from staying away from these dead zones until given a darned good reason to show up, and I'm not talking about a vintage Cabernet in the lobby.

Here's another hint: there are some fabulous arts critics out there. They go where the big papers won't. They take a chance on audacious works by young, aspiring creators. They can be fun to read, even if they don't have the whole of the Western canon in their rhetorical arsenal, and may not even own a turtleneck. Alternative publications - in print and online - are buzzing with a love, albeit irreverent, of the arts. I don't know about your city, but the Nashville Scene has mostly great writing about film, theater, music and art here. I don't always agree, but it's almost always compelling with a thoughtful perspective and something to say. I can't say any of those things about the reviews in the big subscription paper in town.

Buckley film in the works
Why hasn't this story already made it to the screen I wonder? As an epic 2-generation tale, it seems like a natural.
A script currently making the rounds in Hollywood could further ignite interest in a pair of musicians, father and son, whose posthumous reputations have remained durable.

Writer-producer Train Houston has secured the rights to "Dream Brother: The Lives & Music of Jeff and Tim Buckley," Entertainment Weekly music critic David Browne's 2001 book about the titular singer-songwriters, and has penned a screenplay on their eerily entwined lives.
Lazy Question
I have a vague memory of someone recommending Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill during a bygone Media Monday. Rather than scroll through all the past posts, I thought I'd just ask. It's playing in Nashville this week and I'm looking for a recommendation.

Media Action Alert
Congress plans to introduce the broadcast flag (which the courts struck down as an FCC mandate) as an appropriations bill amendment. The flag would place a digital marker on television broadcasts which, read by new digital TVs, not allow digital recording devices to work. If you live in state with a Senate Appropriations Committee member for a Senator, EFF has a handy action form to fill out.

Weekend Box Office
1. Batman Begins
2. Mr. and Mrs. Smith
3. Madagascar
4. Star Wars 3
5. The Longest Yard

Any seen the new Batman movie? And what happened to Cinderella Man? I was sold by the previews that it would be a huge summer Seabiscuit-type movie.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Barack Obama's Commencement Address
Read it and pass it on.
Do we really have to wait until 2016? Is there really any voice more needed or more perfect for today than the one we hear from him? I know, it's just some speeches so far, but if it was that easy, they'd all be doing it.
More Good Sense from Republicans
Nebraska Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel is angry. He's upset about the more than 1,700 U.S. soldiers killed and nearly 13,000 wounded in Iraq. He's also aggravated by the continued string of sunny assessments from the Bush administration, such as Vice President Dick Cheney's recent remark that the insurgency is in its "last throes." "Things aren't getting better; they're getting worse. The White House is completely disconnected from reality," Hagel tells U.S. News. "It's like they're just making it up as they go along. The reality is that we're losing in Iraq."

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Kevin asks a good question
Ok fine. Guantanamo isn't like a gulag. And we're not behaving like Nazis. So who or what is our level of torture?

Friday, June 17, 2005

My new favorite Republican
Former Senator John Danforth, explaining the convictions of "moderate" Christians like himself:
Moderate Christians are less certain about when and how our beliefs can be translated into statutory form, not because of a lack of faith in God but because of a healthy acknowledgement of the limitations of human beings. Like conservative Christians, we attend church, read the Bible and say our prayers.

But for us, the only absolute standard of behavior is the commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves. Repeatedly in the Gospels, we find that the Love Commandment takes precedence when it conflicts with laws. We struggle to follow that commandment as we face the realities of everyday living, and we do not agree that our responsibility to live as Christians can be codified by legislators.
The whole thing is good and for a change gives both Christians and Republicans a good name.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Life is like a box of Donuts
Doug has raised some important issues over at TalkTalkTalkTalkTalk Myself to Death. You will want to get in on the conversation.
"Unreasonable, unconscionable, and unjust"
Fallout from the bankruptcy bill really should become an important part of '06 campaigns. The TPMCafe blog "Warren Reports" is a continuation of the bankruptcy bill blog and comments on "middle class" issues. A post today highlights the true evil of credit card companies, and one case at least where a judge said "enough."

I thought loan sharking was against the law. Credit card companies are just Sopranos-style goons with better offices.
Getting Out Front
Harold Ford, Jr. has his first campaign commercial ready in his bid to replace Frist in the Senate. It's a nice start. His campaign website is here. With an ugly battle for the GOP nomination looming, establishing a distinguished and serious presence early seems smart. He also sounds determined to forge past any bad PR his uncle's troubles may cause. I think he's going to win. (thanks for Kenny B for sending the link)
How to make half a million dollars
Step #1. Stage an abduction.
Step #2. Wait for the height of a media frenzy.
Step #3. Show up with a bizarre story raising lots of questions.
Step #4. Cash the check.
New York superagent Judith Regan has bought the rights to the life stories of runaway bride Jennifer Wilbanks and her fiance after offering them $500,000...
Oh yeah, and you'd better be a white woman.

I have no doubt that a scam like this could be pulled off on the media. It would take a little planning, and some creative twists, and a willingness to frighten and humiliate your family. Done right you could hold out for an even million. Way better odds than the Powerball.
Final Lynching Bill Thought
The more I think about it the more perplexed I am that Republican Senators would not want to be united in their strong support of this apology. For the last 2 months they've been hollering about Democratic obstruction in the Senate. It's even Bush's new attack theme. They made such a big deal about the evils of the filibuster and how it had been famously used to racist ends in the past.

Now here was a chance to offer a real production number about just that: see where filibusters get you? passing up important legislation! Democrats would rather fail the American people now and apologize for it later. We are sorry that the Democrats' obstruction of the past was so costly. We hope they've learned their lesson, but apparently not. Something like that. Instead, for many of them, their instinct to protect the votes of racists won out.
Employment Opportunities
At least once his term is up, and the Presidential bid falls flat, Bill Frist still has his doctoring skills to fall back on, right? Uh, oh, maybe not. The Schiavo autopsy is in. Dr. Frist's diagnosis was a wee bit off on a few small points. Maybe there will be a position in animal control to satisfy his need to kill kill kill?

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

NAACP Ad from 1922
A plea that went unanswered.

I am more and more moved by the bi-partisan decision to apologize. The institutional sin was not an unnoticed act of omission by a distant Senate. The eyes of the nation were on them, as were the pleas of the NAACP (which was created in part to fight this very fight) and especially of organized black women who attempted a million-woman prayer vigil begging God's help in moving the Senate to do the right thing:
Put it into the hearts of the people and the ruler of our own land that the true grandeur of this nation will not consist in political dominion or the mightiness of power or the magnitude of material things, but in justice, love and mercy.

We pray Thee to enlighten the understanding and nerve the hearts of our law-makers with the political wisdom and the moral courage to pass the Dyer Anti-Lynching Bill, now hanging in the balance of doubt and uncertainty.

Have mercy upon any of our legislators who may be so embittered with the gall of race hatred and fettered by the bonds of political iniquity as to advocated or apologize for lynching, raping and murder.

Hear our prayer, relieve our distress, preserve our nation and save the world.
Whether or not the prayers were heard, the telegrams were not. Who can read that prayer of agony and not believe that the Senate should begin every session with an apology for their complicity? Lamar thinks this is a personal thing, that he's being asked to apologize personally, so his friendship with Alex Haley should really suffice. But it's an institutional injustice we're talking about. It demands an institutional response, at least the best that can be done at this point.
I call bullshit
Senator Alexander on the Senate floor Monday:
There are different ways to acknowledge those times when Americans have failed to live up to our lofty goals. The Senators from Louisiana and Virginia, who are also co-sponsors of our Black History Month resolution, have chosen to apologize for the actions of some earlier Senators as a way of expressing their revulsion to lynching. I also condemn lynching, and this Black History Month resolution condemns lynching. But, rather than begin to catalog and apologize for all those times that some Americans have failed to reach our goals, I prefer to look ahead. I prefer to look to correct current injustices rather than to look to the past. Maya Angelou once wrote, ``History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again." {Me: How the hell is celebrating black history more an example of "looking ahead" than a present-day apology is?}

There is no resolution of apology that we can pass today that will teach one more child to read, prevent one more case of AIDS, or stop one more violent crime. The best way for the United States Senate to condemn lynching is to get to work on legislation that would offer African Americans and other Americans better access to good schools, quality health care and decent jobs. By joining together in our Black History Month resolution, 35 members of this body commit ourselves to do just that, to find more ways to look to the future, and to continue to contribute to this work in progress that is the United States of America.

I don't know what my friend Alex Haley would say about this Senate resolution or that Senate resolution. But I do know how he celebrated Black History Month. He told wonderful stories about African Americans and other Americans who believed in the struggle for freedom and the struggle for equality; he minced no words in describing the terrible injustices they overcame. He said to children that they were living in a wonderful country of great goals, and that while many in the past often had failed to reach those goals, that we Americans always recommit ourselves to keep trying.
Doesn't really support this resolution, does he? If he thinks it's a bad idea, he should just have voted against it.
Waving the Flag of Federalism

Senator Lamar Alexander’s refusal, along with 14 other Republican colleagues, to co-sponsor the anti-lynching resolution of apology that passed unanimously Monday night raises questions about his judgment. Senator Frist’s decision to delay the bill until nightfall and to deny a roll-call vote raises even more about his.

Official apologies by the Senate are, to be sure, mostly meaningless legislation. But Monday’s resolution was not simply a belated attempt to speak to the shame of the nation for that grievous chapter in our history. It was an apology demanded specifically by the sins of the US Senate for both their actions and inactions on our behalf during the 1920s and 1930s.

The Dyer anti-lynching bill of 1918 was proposed 5 times before finally in 1922 passing the House of Representatives (despite the no-votes of 7 Tennessee Representatives) and emerging from a Senate committee with an endorsement and the support of President Harding. The bill would have made lynching a federal crime, and would have punished law enforcement officials who failed to heed their duty to protect the accused from mob punishment. It had the support of a majority of the Senate and a majority of the American people. But a group of Southern Senators, including Tennessee’s Kenneth McKellar, filibustered the bill to death, as they did subsequent versions that passed the House in the 1930s. The bill’s supporters never forced a vote ending debate, though it likely would have passed.

The US Senate disgraced itself and let down the American people in its failure to speak forcefully in favor of the rule of law and due process. For that, it has reason to apologize as a body. According to the Tuskegee Institute, nearly 5,000 lynchings occurred in the US between 1882 and 1950. One successful cloture vote would have empowered the federal government to intervene during the last 27 years of that stretch, during which—for instance—in Georgia alone, a black man was lynched every 2 days.

During one of those filibusters, Senator McKellar famously inveighed against the proposed legislation as unconstitutional, but cited as his example of offending text a quotation from the 14th amendment to the US Constitution, guaranteeing the rights of recently freed slaves. Sitting in the same chair that McKellar used to keep the practice of lynching a condoned expression of racism across much of the country, Senator Frist did not find a bi-partisan apology for that injustice to be worthy of the light of day or even a roll-call vote. In so doing, he provided cover for those Senators, including apparently Senator Alexander, who do not want their names associated with such a gesture of institutional contrition.

Lamar is certainly not opposed to sponsoring meaningless legislation, as his website touts his leadership in commending the UT women’s basketball coach, and in celebrating black history month. But this apology resolution was a different kind of act, an acknowledgement of the history of the body he now occupies on our behalf, a body which could have passed meaningful legislation to officially oppose and hopefully curtail what Congressman Dyer, writing in 1918, called “the shame which lynchings cast upon the nation.” Signing his name to this legislation (as Senator Frist, to his credit, did) would have allowed us all to say, through Senator Alexander, that the Senate should have acted when given the chance; that Senator McKellar, on this point, was in the wrong.

But does Senator Alexander in fact believe that he was wrong? Speaking in January to the National Council of County Association Executives, he said: “I can wave the lantern of federalism as Congress debates conflicting principles…. Our nation is at its best when action is taken, not in Washington, D.C., but community by community…. In this Congress, I hope we can do a better job of making sure that the federal government carefully considers the consequences of preempting state authority and only does so when absolutely necessary.”

I am told by a staffer in his office that Senator Alexander does in fact support the resolution of apology, despite his refusal to sign on as a sponsor as 85 of his colleagues have done. Perhaps this holdout is his symbolic attempt to “wave the lantern of federalism,” but turning the spotlights on in that dark corner of the Senate’s history would seem to be the more admirable course.
Frist is the one that hid the anti-lynching vote in the dark of night, and refused to allow a roll-call vote.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Advice for Jacko
Harry Shearer has thought of some ways for Michael Jackson to make a living, despite his reputation as the world's biggest non-convicted freak. Meanwhile Michael has apparently decided that all this fuss just no longer makes sleeping with young boys worth it. Nice to see he's really maturing.
Pro-Lynching Update: My Call to Alexander's Office
[UPDATED: New posts on the lynching resolution here and Alexander's Senate speech on the matter here].

I just got off the phone with a lovely staffer for Senator Alexander I called to register my displeasure with him for his refusal to co-sponsor the anti-lynching resolution last night. I told her I would like to have Tennessee's 2 Senators demonstrate a more high-minded, united attitude about such things than their counterparts in Mississippi, who seem content with furthering the racist South image that is their heritage.

She was very polite and read a prepared statement. It started off with a little misdirection: assuring me that he did not oppose the legislation, and that it passed unanimously, and that he didn't co-sponsor "because" he had already co-sponsored legislation celebrating black history month, and that he intended to bring that one up again.

I reminded her that Senators are not forbidden from supporting black people more than once a Senate session, that I wish he would consider doing so more often on legislation that really matters, and that there was no reason for him not to have co-sponsored this legislation, or at least--now that it's passed as a voice vote--to go back and co-sponsor it now, so that his support is registered.

If your Senator is on the list, give his office a call.
Anti-Apology? or Pro-Lynching? [UPDATED]
20 16 Senators refused to co-sponsor a bill apologizing for never outlawing the lynchings that killed blacks in the South, and refused a roll-call vote that would get them on the record. But, Kos has the list--19 15 Republicans and 1 Democrat (Conrad of ND). We should hammer this in the news day after day after day. I want to turn the tv on this time next week, and still see CNN talking about it. Go to work, Chairman Dean.

UPDATE: The numbers have shifted down to 16. Lamar Alexander is still on the list. A senator may still co-sponsor legislation after it passes to demonstrate support. Lamar, what is the holdup? Why associate yourself with the Trent Lotts of the world?

Monday, June 13, 2005

What have you been reading, watching, listening to?

It has come up in the comments, so here are a few links. Jack FM is a DJ-less radio format that seems to shuffle through the near endless stream of songs that were at some time in the past popular. I happen to agree with Darrel Goodin, radio station manager in San Diego, who says:
"It assumes that someone will set their dial to one radio station, leave it there all day and be thrilled with the randomness," said Darrel Goodin, general manager of several Jefferson-Pilot stations in San Diego. "It runs extremely counter to the way the radio has been successful over the years. Maybe someone has found a way to defy gravity, but the odds are against it."
I'm sorry to say to my Canadian brothers that this radio development began in your homeland.

Article 19 Film Review: Enron: Smartest Guys in the Room
**************** (16 out of 19)
Excellent film. Enraging and well-told. It took me a full 24 hours to remember that in fact George W. Bush and Dick Cheney are the most reprehensible characters in America today, and not Kenneth Lay and Jeff Skilling. This film makes a strong case to the contrary.

The Beastie Boys paid for the right to sample a recording on "Pass the mic." But they were sued by the composer, who said they should also pay for the composition at the heart of the 3-note recorded excerpt they used. Thankfully -- though I hate to see any composer receive fewer rewards than the recording their piece enabled -- the Supreme court refused to hear the case, vindicating the Beasties' position that what they were using was a sound and not a composition. They are right.

Franzen re-thinking?
Remember Jonathan Franzen, who wrote The Corrections, an acclaimed book that Oprah selected as one of her book list titles? Then he complained that he really wanted to reach a male audience and implied that the Oprah crowd was a bit beneath him, so he got taken off the list? Seeing as how she just named 3 William Faulkner classics as this summer's reading list, do you think Jonathan--who had already publicly regretted the incident--is feeling that much more like a total dumbass right about now?

Article 19 Book Review: The Great Influenza
************ (12 out of 19)
A chronicle of the so-called "Spanish Influenza" of 1918, by John Barry. This is one of the most frightening books I've ever read. During a 6-month period near the end of the first World War (perhaps precipitating its end in some ways), 5% of the planet's human population was wiped out by a vicious, violent flu. This book tells the story of its spread, among civilians and the military, from many perspectives. If it has a flaw, in fact, it may just be too ambitious. In a 500-page book that seemed like it should have been 1000 pages, he tries to tell the story of:
1. The recent history and state of medicinal science at the time, and the efforts of many key researchers (perhaps too many. I couldn't keep them all straight sometimes) and institutions to combat the disease and interact with military and political leaders.

2. The nature of viruses and the human immune system, and what makes the flu virus different than the rest.

3. Woodrow Wilson's efforts to build a climate of war that demanded active assistance and support from all levels of society (you think wearing an anti-war badge gets you in trouble these days....), and his stubborn refusal to even acknowledge, much less focus attention on, the fact that his country was being ravaged by disease.

4. The military and its decisions to shun protocol in housing/shipping soldiers, and its denial of recommendations by commanders and medical personnel that would have saved hundreds of thousands of lives, at least.

5. Today's remaining vulnerabilities, which are nearly just as bad as they were then.

Primarily, this is a book about the scientists and the state of medicine at the time. The transition from a non-trained, unscientific medical culture of bleeding toward a highly trained/licensed field that embraced finally a germ theory of disease had just been taking place. Medical science was proud, confident, striding forward by leaps, and was then completely overwhelmed and humbled by the terrors of the conditions of this flu: a country and a virus both bent on war.

In the middle third of the book, Barry does flit abit recklessly from thread to thread, but the overall power here is clear and effective: we're doomed, and at the mercy of a rapidly mutating virus whose direction we can hardly predict (though we try - it's called the flu shot). Politically, this is a cautionary tale in public health administration. In 1918, all sides of that responsibility failed. Today, we may have already been saved a pandemic or 2 by quick action in, sadly, the slaughter of millions of animals thought to be carrying a flu virus that could become adaptable to humans. But, the bird flu looms. And the thing about the flu is: prepare all you want, but you're contagious well before you have a clue you're sick. Put some of those people on some long international flights, say, to or from a jam-packed India or China--where they won't even want to admit they have legions of sick people until it can't be denied--and we've got a pandemic.

HIV/AIDS has, according to this book, killed half a million people worldwide in 25 years. The flu killed anywhere from 50 to more likely 100 million people in 25 weeks in 1918, when the population was about 1/3 what it is today.

So think about that the next time you're on a plane, or an elevator.

Weekend Box Office
1. Mr. and Mrs. Smith
2. Madagascar
3. Star Wars 3
4. The Longest Yard
5. The Adventures of Shark Boy and Lava Girl

To me, Mr. and Mrs. Smith looks especially stupid (except for Vince Vaughn who always makes me laugh). Doesn't Hollywood know we'd rather see Angelina Jolie and Jennifer Aniston beating the crap out of each other?

Nice performance, crappy movie
Saw the Life and Death of Peter Sellers (I won't tell you how it ends). Geoffrey Rush was fabulous, but the story was just kind of dreadful. Or maybe Peter Sellers' life was.

Friday, June 10, 2005

What's on your mind?
I'm out of town. Talk amongst yourselves.
Why do I bother?
No less than 10 minutes after popping a couple of Advil--which I take because I think there's something dangerous about Aspirin (I can't remember what), and because I'm convinced Tylenol may kill me--I read this: Ibuprofin is now linked with heart attacks. We should all just take one of everything and hope for the best.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Maybe Frist doesn't have the votes?
Reid is laying the smack-down to both Bush and Frist. If Frist can't get Bolton through, is he really finished or what? (via DKos diarist Avian)
Senate Democrats will not allow a vote on President Bush's choice for U.N. ambassador unless the White House hands over records of communications intercepts Bolton sought from the secretive National Security Agency, Minority Leader Harry Reid said Thursday.

"You can't ignore the Senate. We've told them what we've wanted. The ball is in his court," Reid, D-Nevada, told CNN. "If they want John Bolton as ambassador to the United Nations, give us this information. If they don't, there will be no Bolton."
Bolton the undiplomat would be a tragic, insult-to-injury choice. Still, I had doubted a Democrat coalition could stay intact with all of them shying from the "obstructionist" charge. Steve Clemons at The Washington Note, in a roundabout post, eventually gets to the rub: the White House has a Bolton confirmation staring them in the face, if only they would compromise on some of the Senate Democrats' requests that have been refused or delayed for months. Those lingering requests (whose content I don't understand in the least) appear to be the pin holding together the filibuster. Still, it would appear, the White House refuses.

If you have a Senator who is a Democrat, or at least plays one on TV, send a note and encourage holding the line. The political win would be gravy, but the real victor is nothing less than the whole world. Sometimes just saying sorry isn't enough.
Winning Ticket [UPDATED]
The last several weeks have seen plenty of discussion about the possible emergence of the American center as a political force that someone should use to their advantage. Back in April, Ron Brownstein argued in the LATimes for the potential of a third-party to overtake the space left between the polarized left-right dominating the political climate these days. Most recently, Marshall Whitman argues briefly at the TPMCafe that the time is ripe for a third party run, should neither Democrats nor Republicans prove able to capture the trust of independents by 2008. And Matt Yglesias adds the very important element that what counts as centrism these days is a multitude of diverse attitudes.

I have always been a third-party naysayer. At the end of the day, the electoral college doesn't reward a second-place finish everywhere.

But I think there could be an opening, not for a new party, but an independent run. In the recent past, such efforts have been doomed by the personalities of the candidates. Perot got alot of votes--and he was crazy, and running with the single most bizarre VP choice (at least as a TV personality) by a major candidate in recent memory. Nader, of course, attacked the 2 parties, but from an ideological perspective from the left, not the center.

What if Perot had been more serious, and had some political experience? What if he had been John McCain? I know this McCain abandoning the GOP talk is getting tiresome and seems unlikely. My point is this: if he decided to run, but decided not to seek the GOP nomination, and if he announced early on a Democratic running mate with solid government experience...say Gov. Warner of VA, or Bredesen of TN, or maybe John Breaux from LA, and if they ran on platform of anti-special-interests on both sides, and of putting an end to wedge-issue, divisive governance in favor of serious priorities, why would they not win? It would be the ultimate throw-the-bums-out campaign, but one that on the surface favors neither major party. And believe me, most people are sick to death of both parties.

If he was convinced he could win that way, why wouldn't he do it? Announcing before the primaries would mobilize activists and shake up the party alignments. And if they did win, the fallout would be huge. In Presidential politics, Republicans may become the refuge of only the RepubliChristians, and the Democrats a true liberal party. The party coming in third would be in serious trouble. And we may face a prolonged period where any Presidential candidate is expected to run with a member of the other Party. Extreme partisans would never be believed/elected to the White House. Given how horrific we have seen a partisan President can be, that might not be such a bad thing.

By the way, I haven't looked it up, but do we know what happens if no candidate receives 270 electoral votes?
[UPDATE: Kenny B educates: if no candidate receives 270 electoral votes, it is thrown to the House of Representatives.]

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

No one was hurt?
Tell that to the man formerly stowed away on the plane:
A man's leg and part of his spine came crashing onto the roof of a woman's home in Nassau County near Kennedy International Airport on Tuesday morning, and a short while later the man himself was found dead in the wheel well of a South African Airways airliner that had just landed.
"I thought it was a really sick joke," said Hearne, a special education teacher. But when she realized that human remains were in her yard, she called the police. The impact made a hole the size of a watermelon in her garage roof, she said, but no one was hurt. (emphasis mine)
How is this a story about homes belted by body parts, and not about how some poor man was crushed trying to hide in an airplane? Strange.
Captain Obvious
I love when stuff we already know to be the case is finally unmasked and trumpeted by "news" media. Like finding out that Bush had already decided to go to war well after he was claiming otherwise--no way! I'm shocked! 2 others have come up today. First, Americans are craaaazy--a new study shows that 55% of Americans will experience mental illness at some time in their lives. Really? That low? Their definitions would have included practically everyone I would think: any form of depression, phobia, alcohol abuse, or anxiety. Who's left standing after that?

Best of all though is the shocking revelation that Exxon played a major role in shaping Bush's environmental policy, including the decision to refuse the Kyoto treaty.
"President Bush tells Mr Blair he's concerned about climate change, but these documents reveal the alarming truth, that policy in this White House is being written by the world's most powerful oil company. This administration's climate policy is a menace to humanity," said Stephen Tindale, Greenpeace's executive director in London last night.
Alarming! I thought he really was serious about climate change, but was just waiting for the right moment to pounce! Seriously, who did we think Bush was listening to? The Sierra Club?

In other news, the Earth continues to both rotate and revolve simultaneously! Plus, I overslept this morning! The gods must be crazy!
A "Down Payment on a Down Payment"
Bush and Blair announced something like an agreement on debt relief for Africa. Of course, there are strings attached, and Bush has yet to actually pay the mney he pledged to Africa for AIDS assistance. But this at least could turn out to be better than nothing, I suppose.
Both leaders, who met yesterday in Washington, pledged their governments to addressing poverty in Africa. They said details of a plan to ease the debt burden of African governments will be worked out in time for the Group of Eight summit of industrialized nations that Blair will be the host for July 6-8 in Gleneagles, Scotland.
Maybe kissing up to Bush for the last 3 years will get Blair some manner of payback. But I woulnd't bet on it.
Reason #563
Why abortions must remain legal. Kevin Drum has the details. It's not pretty.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Carter says shut it down
Joining the call of Tom Friedman last week, President Carter says the Guantanamo Bay detention facility should be no more. The Carter Center has released a statement about a number of issues raised in their Human Rights Forum today, closing down the prison in Cuba being one of many recommendations and concerns.
Family Values
The crazies at WorldNetDaily are upset:
Last week, Carl Forti, communications director for the National Republican Congressional Committee, explained to WND that self-described pornographer Mark Kulkis and his date, porn star Mary Carey, will be attending the two-day event, "The 2005 President's Dinner and Salute to Freedom," next Monday and Tuesday because their money is just as good as anyone else's.
I'm sure that if Clinton had dined at a fundraiser with a porn star, but explained that he had no choice because she paid her money like everyone else, Limbaugh and Republicans would have pretty much dropped the issue, don't you think?
Changes at CNN?
File this under I'll-believe-it-when-I-see-it. CNN is giving up on competing with Fox in their antagonistic "debate" approach. According to USAToday (via the Huffington Post):
CNN announced a slate of programming and anchor changes Monday intended to refocus the No. 2 cable news network on hard news and analysis, and away from opinion and talk.
Among the changes: Your World Today, CNN International's one-hour midday broadcast anchored by Zain Verjee and Jim Clancy, will now air on CNN domestic weekdays at noon ET/9 a.m. PT, marking the first time any cable news outlet has devoted a regular daytime block — albeit a low-rated one — solely to international news. Today kicked off Monday with reports from Sudan and Syria.
Integrity? Courage? Desperation? Big Fat Lie? CNN will deserve credit if they really go through with news and analysis and leave the Crossfire approach behind. One test I will be looking for: doesn't this mean there should be fewer partisan, talking-point, sham interviews?

Also, I guess it would be too much to ask that the news and analysis they provide is about something other than just missing-white-girl/celebrity-trial kind of news.

Monday, June 06, 2005

What have you been listening to, reading, watching?

Artistry Defined?
The Globe and Mail ponders a central question about an artist's (or anyone's?) life:
Why do some artists remain artistically relevant well into their careers, while others are content to dish out from the stew they cooked 30 or 40 years before? How does creativity wax and wane with age? It's a difficult line to draw.
Musicians I love and respect most of all are ones who continue to develop and try new things, even if it means leaving behind the things that drew me to them to begin with. Miles Davis, Elvis Costello, The Beatles, Beethoven..they all used their early-career success as capital to continue exploring new ways of expressing their artistry. And in each case it worked (admitedly, The Beatles' career was too short to fit this model. Their development was on hyper-speed, but who knows what they would be like now if they were still together.) The article continues:
(T)he Stones been unable to produce a great record since Some Girls almost 30 years ago? The band repackages old material more diligently than it produces new hits (their last record of new material was 1997's Bridges to Babylon, and it's a challenge to name a song off it). This lack of resonant new stuff doesn't affect the success of their live shows, which routinely sell out.

They're a nostalgia act now, just like Paul McCartney, who is also out touring this year (and producing yelps for the cost of his concert tickets, which top out at $275 for his Toronto date). McCartney doesn't even have a new record, which shouldn't disappoint fans as long as they get to hear Hey Jude and Let It Be. So if the Stones and McCartney possessed genius once, as they surely did, where did that creativity go?
Good Question.

From the Left: 10 must harmful books
Kevin Drum has attempted to counter the crazy HumanEvents list of the 10 most harmful books of the 19th and 20th Century with one of his own. I haven't even heard of most of these, so I assume and hope much of their harm has been left in the past.

Six Feet Under
Starts the last season tonight. There is an annoying review in the Times. I didn't read it all (avoiding spoilers as always), but enough to get the idea that it was more base-covering than actual opinion. Shorter version: What a great series! What a terrible series! I'm of one mind on this one: Is every episode and storyline interesting and well-done? Of course not. But, overall--fabulous series. At its best, there's none better that I've seen.

"Spamalot" wins Tony for Best Musical
Link. I haven't seen any of the nominees, obviously. But still, I'm surprised. Is it pandering?

Weekend Box Office
1. Madagascar
2. The Longest Yard
3. Star Wars 3 (a $308 million disappointment?)
4. Cinderella Man
5. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (?)

Pro-Cinderella Man review....Anti-Cinderella Man review
Both from Slate.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

I posted on the Hydrogen car first (below) because I knew everyone would be talking about the important other Times article, by David Cay Johnston, detailing what we already know: our progressive tax system isn't really so progressive. If you make more than 10 million dollars, you really should contribute more of your money into the tax system than those who make $100,000. It should be as simple as that. But as Kevin Drum points out with the Times' graphic, that's not our reality.
The Future is Not Now
I'm not complaining. I have no standing for that. If technological advancement depended on me, we would be doomed to a stasis making the dark ages look like sunny days of hope. You think the chances of curing a new disease in the near future seem bleak now, just put me in charge. You think your chances of getting to the moon or mars on some kind of exotic space-cruise are remote now, make me the head of the International Space Agency and watch all effective innovation come to a grinding halt. I am the least scientific, least engineering person around.

So, I'm not saying I could do better than automotive engineers workign on Hydrogen-cell cars. But you have to admit, you thought they'd be further along by the year 2005, didn't you? Today's NYTImes reviews the newest Honda development, the FCX, as a real step forward.
Given my experience with fuel-cell prototypes that were noisy, balky and incapable of going very far between refuelings, the FCX was something of a surprise. Featuring the latest generation of Honda's own fuel cells (hundreds of them are arrayed in two multiple sets, called stacks) and a body and electric motor derived from the company's unsuccessful EV Plus battery vehicle, the FCX felt like a real car, not a high-strung test mule.
But from my reading, the dream of a hydrogen-powered car still sounds pretty distant. Kinda about the same it felt when I first remember hearing about this in the 80s. Even if you won the lottery and could afford one, the only place presently, to get refueled is in Latham, NY. Getting there from most of the country will be a bit of a problem because this highly advanced Honda still only has a range of about 190 miles. So if you want to go farther than that, you'll have to be dragged.

The FCX carried a federal combined city-highway economy rating of 57 miles per kilogram, but since the car holds less than four kilos of hydrogen - a very light gas - long cruises are a challenge. The dash includes two colorful light-bar fuel gauges, one of which displays the estimated number of miles left until the FCX needs a tow truck.

Like an execution in the morning, range-challenged fuel-cell cars concentrate the mind. As I neared the end of my loan, I constantly checked the rapidly diminishing blue bars and mentally prepared myself to get out and push.
Will they become common eventually? I'm sure. Will it happen in my lifetime--will I ever drive one of these? Probably not. And that's a real problem. Fuel emissions are ravaging the air quality, and dependence on Middle East oil is compromising our foreign policy. And our commitment to public transportation is at a near-criminal low, probably because we assume that technological advances will eventually, just in the nick of time, save us. So why spend so much money on a brand new infrastructure like a reasonable rail system, what with easily rechargeable, cheap-as-a-scooter battery-powered cars just around the corner?

As confused as I am that they can't seem to make it work, at least not efficiently, yet, it seems important to at least acknowledge that thay can't; it's time to stop waiting for science to save us from ourselves.

Still, despite the growing acceptance of the Hybrid, isn't it a bit surprising they haven't made more headway?

Friday, June 03, 2005

The Prankster: Credit Cards
I laughed out loud while reading the prankster's credit card experiment: how bizarre does your signature have to be before a store clerk will notice and/or say something? (via boing boing)
That was the winning spelling bee word and as it's a musical term I happen to know it (and how to spell it), which is pretty rare for me. Usually I've never heard of any of those words. So, I must tell you that, though the precise meaning can change a bit with the context and there's slight disagreements over when it does or doesn't apply, news reports have a pretty unsatisfying (to be charitable) definition. Appoggiatura is not simply another word for "melodic tone." That would be pretty boring. It is in fact a fairly precise kind of melodic tone, one that is non-harmonic (i.e., is not a tone in the chord of the underlying harmony) and is approached by a leap (or by nothing), and is resolved by a step. Almost always, appoggiaturas occur in accented places, metrically, and are a step above their ultimate resolution (grace notes and other embellishments are often appoggiaturas).

The example that's unfortunately coming to mind is the annoying song from Annie, "Tomorrow." In the chorus, (with some room for argument depending on the chords used) the second syllable of each 3-note utterance is an appoggiatura ["to-MOR-row"], on an accented beat, approached by a leap from "to-" and resolving down by a step into "-row." It is this sense of leaning down to a resolving note that gives it its name. The Italian word "appoggiare" is a verb meaning "lean on."

It really is shocking that this kind of fascinating tidbit doesn't help me get any dates, isn't it?
"We see a lot of hostility." [UPDATED]
Fahrenheit 9/11 brought attention to the tactics of military recruiters in Flint, Michigan: targeting poor neighborhoods, promising lucrative careers even in music, and just plain being deceitful to get names and addresses. And the Supreme Court will rule in the next year on the consitutionality of the Solomon Amendment, which would punish law schools for refusing access to military recruiters on the grounds that they discriminate based on sexual orientation.

The bottom line is that an all-volunteer army will have to be recruited. These days, that isn't going so well. April's numbers fell short by 42%, and May's numbers have been postponed--not a confidence-building development. And so it clearly takes more than a hard-headed, heavy-handed bullrush by recruiters with all the tact of door-to-door knife salesmen to counteract the damage done by the Iraq War. Proud families with service histories, plus community and institutional encouragement for young people to find fulfillment and opportunity in the military have been the hallmark of our volunteer force.

But that is much less the case these days. Today's Times reports on the increasing number of parent groups who are actively monitoring, refuting, and even successfully banning military recruiters from their children's high schools, once a fertile ground for new enlistees.
Amy Hagopian, co-chairwoman of the Parent-Teacher-Student Association at Garfield High School in Seattle....recently took a few hours off work to stand beside recruiters at Garfield High and display pictures of injured American soldiers from Iraq.

"We want to show the military that they are not welcome by the P.T.S.A. in this building," she said. "We hope other P.T.S.A.'s will follow."

Two years into the war in Iraq, as the Army and Marines struggle to refill their ranks, parents have become boulders of opposition that recruiters cannot move.

Mothers and fathers around the country said they were terrified that their children would have to be killed - or kill - in a war that many see as unnecessary and without end.

Around the dinner table, many parents said, they are discouraging their children from serving.
Of course, the Pentagon has only themselves to blame for this situation. Why wouldn't growing numbers of parents mistrust the promise to send their children into harm's way only as a last resort, and only in defense of America?

But all of this to lead to the real question on my mind. Why aren't we hearing a single defender of this war actively encourage people, the young and the not-so-young, to sign up? I understand why the Pentagon itself isn't going on TV to plead for troops. Obviously that desperation would send all the wrong signals. But supposedly 40-50% of the country supports the war effort on some level. And conservatives berate as un-American anyone who suggests that the war was wrong-headed or a bad idea.

I've never enjoyed the common liberal argument that somehow defenders of the war should be criticized for not sending their own children to fight to show their true belief in the cause. As if that's how we want anyone to do it: sending their children. I do think it's more than fair to demand that war apologists of fighting age should sign up if they are going to claim such an emergency as reason to threaten the well-being of others. But, failing that (and most of them do) are any of them even going to put in a good word for service? Why aren't Shawn Hannity, James Dobson, Jonah Goldberg, Rush Limbaugh, or any of the other war-drum-beaters out front telling young people that they owe it to their country to sign up? That their country needs them? Maybe they are and I'm missing it.

I suspect it's because they know. They know that this is not a debt owed. This cause does not demand such a sacrifice. They don't want to be the one that inspires a young man or woman to meet their doom against an anti-American, anti-democratic fanatic insurgency that will likely never be quelled by military means.

Unless and until more of the country is fully behind this military objective and continued deployment--a level of support that has flagged due to the Bush Administration's own mistakes and deceptions--all the doughnuts, feigned enthusiasm, and flashy video-game-styled advertisements will never keep up with the good word of a trusted voice. These days, the trusted voices are understandably in near unison: No way. Not for this.

UPDATE: At the Huffington Post blog, Jesse Kornbluth points to a provision in the Leave No Child Behind lawl that allows parents to exempt their children from having their files handed over to the military---yes, turning student info over to the military was a part of the LNCB law. Get more info on this exemption at

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Greenwald Update
On Media Monday, I pointed to filmmaker Robert Greenwald's blog posting, hinting at his next film. He has now announced its subject. Walmart: The High Cost of Low Price will premier in screenings across the country (you can host one too) on November 13.
DNC Raising Money Online for 50-State Strategy
Chairman Dean is asking for money specifically to fund the next phase of the 50-state strategy. In April, the DNC sent funds to the state parties of Missouri, North Carolina, West Virginia, and North Dakota. This round targets Kansas, Wyoming, Nevada, Nebraska and Mississippi. Follow along with the graphic below (or click to donate), which is updated on the hour.

While the media is bashing Dean for not raising as much money as the GOP in his first quarter, DKos commenter trubludem reports that DNC fundraising is far outpacing the last Q1 of an off-year. Face facts, we're just not going to have as much money as the GOP. That's how it is. It's not our fundamental problem. We will have enough to win, if other things are in place. Competing across the country will help in itself, and sends the right message.
Just so you know
Many have been saying that abortion rates have gone up under Bush's first term--an idea that would make perfect sense given the economic policies and performance of the last 4 years. I too have repeated that statistic, which came from a researcher Glen Stassen, writing in Sojourners magazine. But his test was limited and a more comprehensive study by the research arm of Planned Parenthood has found the opposite to be the case, that the abortion rate continued to fall in 2001 and 2002, albeit only slightly. Stassen has concurred that the work of the Guttmacher Institute appears to be more reliable than his own.

That doesn't change the fact that the decline has slowed dramatically in comparison to Clinton's time in office.
Read Aloud With Me
An astute reader points out the insightful Yahoo headline "Bush Chooses Conservative Cox to Lead SEC."

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Does the Root of all Evil Always Sprout?
At AMERICAblog, John poses a big and important question. What is the attitude on the left about money? Having it, spending it, enjoying it. I am fairly conflicted on this, both in my thoughts and behavior. Mostly it feels like any rigid position is fraught with hypocrisy. I can say that I am regularly--though not too often--glad I don't have more money, so I don't have to think any more about how best to use it than I already do. How messed up is that?

Have a read of some of the conversation there, and let me know your thoughts.
Cancel That Prescription
I may even be willing to go blind at some point in life, if there's some sex in it, but until they come up with a reliable, simple antidote that will relieve the other famous and unfortunate potential side-effect of fashionable drugs like Viagra, you can count me out:
Drug companies already warn consumers that Viagra and competitors like Levitra and Cialis have several other side effects, like blurred vision, headaches, indigestion, and painful erections that last four hours or more. What do you do with an erection that won't quit? Call your doctor—and be very, very afraid.
Slate's explainer details the list of medical options, that start at the level of harrowing and--since those usually don't work--get gradually worse.

I'm thinking more people would stay away, if the ads said directly: "you may go blind, and blood may have to be surgically drained from your penis to avoid lifelong pain and scarring."
Dick Cheney is on Crack
The insurgency in Iraq is "in the last throes," Vice President Dick Cheney says, and he predicts that the fighting will end before the Bush administration leaves office.
This from the man that told us we'd be greeted as liberators. Maybe I was wrong before about people being tired of being lied to. Then again, maybe I was being sarcastic at the time. I can't remember.
New Site
TPMCafe is Josh Marshall's new venture, a multi-layered group blog with lots of great features, like allowing readers to post diaries like Kos, but on a page with others of similar topic; and a regular guest-blog area. This first week, the guest blogger is John Edwards, who yesterday wrote about the fact that not only is being poor difficult, it's actually more expensive than being wealthy:
The Brookings Institution recently released a fascinating study demonstrating how low-income families pay more for all sorts of things. They pay more for groceries and gasoline. They pay more for furniture and appliances. They pay higher prices for insurance and for utilities. And—something that has troubled me for a long time—they pay more for financial services, whether it’s cashing a check or getting a loan.
And continues the train of thought last night:
(I)t’s a lot easier to save and spend wisely when you already have the means – and that much harder when you don’t. Just think about it: even on the most basic level, the websites most families (including many who are reading today) use to comparison-shop and save on everything from plane tickets to home loans simply aren’t easily accessible to many low-income families.
He's making a lot of sense - read both posts. I would add to his list the enormous cost of higher education if you're not already wealthy enough to have contacts, buy study courses for entrance exams, being able to afford extracurricular activities that make your college resume look that much more impressive, etc. But he's right - it's one thing to be disadvantages, it's another to have to pay more for the same thing as a wealthier person.

TPMCafe is also the new home of Matthew Yglesias' blog, if you've been missing that.